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Let’s get to the heart of the matter - stress and emotional trauma play a major role in most health conditions. Breast cancer, of course, is no exception. Keep in mind that stress, or even perceived stress, puts your body into a fight or flight response.  This state is under the control of our autonomic nervous system, which in turn has two branches, the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. As you will see, each one has a specific function. 

 

To simplify matters I’ll use the following analogy - Sympathetic System will be termed as a fight or flight state while Para-Sympathetic System we will call a wine and dine state. Each one has a specific function to regulate. For instance, if you walk down a street and someone is trying to mug you, your sympathetic nervous system will kick in. You’ll have a chance to fight or get out of this situation by running away. In either case your major muscle groups will get more blood supply. Your breathing is going to be shortened, your mouth will get dry, your digestive process is going to be shut down, your heart is going to palpate faster, you bladder and bowels will contract and your cortisone (adrenaline) levels will be released to their maximum. This is a very efficient way to make sure that you survive whatever challenge you’re facing at the moment. 

 

By contrast your Para-Sympathetic nervous system is the exact opposite in function. As you wine and dine your breathing slows down, your heart rhythm slows down, you start secreting saliva and you are ready to digest and eliminate as you are in a relaxed state. 

 

The reason why I’m illustrating the function of our Sympathetic and Para-Sympathetic systems is very important because most of us appear to be in a Sympathetic mode most of the day. We eat on the run, drink coffee during our commute, and deal with stressful or unpleasant situations at home or at work.  Obviously all this stress will affect us. In my opinion, this daily grind is slowly killing us, since we are not able to digest or eliminate properly, while our high cortisol levels create inflammation in our body and turn everything we eat into fat, as our hormonal levels are stressed and become imbalanced.

 

Furthermore, it is not only daily occurrences and actions that force us into a sympathetic mode but more so our anxious or negative thoughts can trigger the same response. It occurs to me that this is one of the major reasons why we get sick and age prematurely and it is all because we live in a Sympathetic or a fight or flight world. 

 

Let me state this unequivocally; your emotions and thoughts will directly influence your physical health. Thus to attain good health, your emotions and your thoughts need to support your-well being.  In all my years of clinical practice I have never seen a healthy individual whose emotions are in disarray or whose mental state is not at ease.  Thus we call it dis-ease

 

So, what can you do?

First and foremost, create a plan of action on how you’re going to de-stress in a healthy way. Perhaps going for a walk or spending time listening to music or reading a book or meditating, whatever it is that you find enjoyable and relaxing will work to de-stress. Make sure that you create that daily ritual for yourself; this would be a place of refuge and personal healing. 

 

Next, take account of past emotional traumas or conflicts that have not been resolved. Get help from a professional if required or talk to your trusted friend or a family member and ask them for direction.  Be open and willing to accept advice, after all - there is always room for improvement and personal change.  Change could be very challenging for most of us. However, it can also be the most rewarding aspect that can bring us to better health, happier life and self-fulfillment. 

 

Take charge of your health today, be proactive and help others to prevent breast cancer NOW!

 

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Stress, Adrenals and Breast Cancer

Posted by on in Breast Health

 

I often get this question from patients, “Can stress cause breast cancer?”

 

Nothing can affect your adrenal function more than stress. Under prolonged stress or duress your adrenals will produce high levels of cortisol and have a low DHEA output. It is a well known fact that increased levels of cortisone and decreased levels of DHEA are usually present in breast cancer patients. 

 

There are different types of stress that we all experience; emotional, mental, psycho-spiritual, physical, chemical, nutritional, and traumatic. 

 

This article will only deal with three types of stress – emotional, mental and psycho-spiritual.

 

The emotional type of stress that contributes to breast cancer is most likely related to traumatic events like death of a loved one, history of child abuse, and emotional suppression.

 

Mental stress usually can manifest as anxiety, anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, fear, perfectionism, etc.

 

Psycho-Spiritual stress can be the result of spiritual misalignment and general state of unhappiness. 

 

Any type of stress and subsequent high levels of cortisol cause Estrogen Dominance, which is a hallmark of breast cancer. There are several ways in which stress causes Estrogen Dominance.

 

Insulin resistance - A high level of cortisol causes insulin resistance along with resistance to thyroid hormones. In turn this leads to weight gain and additional estrogen burden. 

 

Aromatase activity – A high level of cortisol increases aromatase activity in fatty tissue that converts androgens to estrogens.

 

Ovarian dysfunction - Stress causes ovarian dysfunction that leads to luteal insufficiency and subsequent estrogen dominance.

 

Low Melatonin levels - Stress and high levels of cortisol have an inverse affect on melatonin production at night. Low melatonin levels result in overproduction of estrogens and activates estrogen receptors in breast cells.

 

So, what can you do to get out of the vicious circle of prolonged stress?

 

Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful:  

 

Start practicing relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation and visualization to help you let go of your mental worries.

 

Start a regular fitness program. Physical activity is one of the best ways to clear tension and build energy. Even regular walking can help you get rid of a lot of stress.

 

Change you perceptions and attitudes. Holding on to frustrations, grudges or being a victim are not in your own best interest. If your existing ideas and views are not serving you, perhaps it is time to examine them and change them.

 

Express your feelings. Let’s face it, unexpressed emotions can and often do lead to pain and illness. Emotions need regular and healthy venting.

 

Develop good relationships. Friends in whom you can confide and find support are indispensable. We all need support from time to time, yet it is just as rewarding to give as well as to receive support.

 

Eat nourishing food that supports your body’s natural immune system.  This in turn will help in the healing process and help you cope with other sources of stress.

 

Finally, Have More Fun. Schedule regular activity that you enjoy whatever it is. Some like listening to music or painting or reading poetry or walking in the park, anything that creates that place of refuge for you. I truly believe that this is the place of true healing for us.

 

I encourage you to pick one of these suggested practices, and try it on this week…

 

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The great endocrinologist Dr. Hans Selye stated that ‘“Disease is the body’s inability to deal with mental, emotional or physical stress.”   

 

Stress and trauma play a major role in most health conditions. Breast cancer, of course, is no exception. There are different sources and different types of stress. Simply, for the purpose of this article, we’ll define stress as ‘the body’s reaction to a threat – real or perceived – to its well-being.’ 

What’s the impact of stress on your body’s health? In general, stress puts your body into a fight or flight response in your Autonomic Nervous System. ANS is comprised of two component systems: Sympathetic and Para-Sympathetic, each of which has a specific function. To simplify matters I’ll use the following analogy - Sympathetic System will be termed as a fight or flight state while Para-Sympathetic System we will call a wine and dine state. Each of these states have importance and relevance and therefore there is very good reason why we need to activate these states.

For instance if a person walks down the street and is mugged, the Sympathetic System will kick in. They’ll have a chance to fight or get out of the situation by running away. In either case, their blood supply will be directed toward their major muscle groups to make sure they're ready for action. Their breathing is going to be shortened, mouth will get dry, digestive process is going to be shut down, heart is going to palpate faster, bladder and bowels are going to contract and cortisone (adrenaline) levels are going to be released to their maximum. This is a very efficient way to assure survival no matter what the challenge presented at the moment. 

By contrast your Para-Sympathetic System is the exact opposite in function. As one wines and dines, or in a relaxed state, breathing becomes much slower, heart rhythm slows down, they start secreting saliva and are ready to digest and eliminate being in a relaxed state. The reason why I’m illustrating the function of the Sympathetic and Para-Sympathetic systems is very important because most of us are in a Sympathetic mode most of the day. Think about it for yourself: We eat on the run, drink coffee during our commute, deal with stressful or unpleasant situations at home and at work, etc. Guess what effect it has on our physical well-being? This daily grind is slowly diminishing our body’s ability to digest or eliminate properly, high cortisol levels create inflammation in our body and turn most of what we eat into fat, and our hormonal levels are stressed and become imbalanced, all of which increases risk of disease.

However, it is not only our daily occurrences and actions that activate the Sympathetic mode. Research has shown that, even more frequently, our anxious or negative thoughts will trigger the same responses. And since we tend to identify ourselves with our thoughts this can become even more damaging to our health. To put it simply, one of the major reasons why people get sick and age prematurely is because we live in a Sympathetic or a fight or flight-induced world.

You are not just a physical body. Your emotions and thoughts directly influence your physical health. That’s not all bad news! While almost everyone can use some help in this area, the fact is you can attain real health and well-being by taking new approaches to activate your Para-Sympathetic state as a source of your health and well-being. My advice to you is to create a plan of action on how you’re going to de-stress in a healthy way. Perhaps going for a walk, spending time listening to music, reading a book, meditating, or whatever it is that you find enjoyable and relaxing will bring you back to the Para-Sympathetic state.  Make sure that you create this daily ritual for yourself and turn it into a place of refuge and personal healing. 

 

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